10 Reasons to get to know yourself really, really well
People sometimes worry that personal growth work is a little self-indulgent. That it feels a bit like contemplative naval-gazing. Perhaps a tad selfish.
For others, it can simply feel too hard. Too painful. A fear that it involves digging up the past and having to confront aspects of ourselves we’d really prefer not to.
And yes. Working on ourselves can feel like both those things:
“If I was practical, solid and strong, I wouldn’t have to explore these complex aspects of myself. I wouldn’t have get all deep and intense to figure out what makes me happy. I’d just go out and do it.”
“Surely if I want to move forward with my life, I need to put the past behind me? It’s over and done with, so I really don’t see the point in digging it all up. Again.”
But hear me out on this one. Because the truth is, most of us want to change. We want better relationships with ourselves and others. And we want to live our lives in a way that feels true to who we really are.
to bring about change in our lives, we have to do things differently. This requires courage. It takes an openness to seeing ourselves in a new way. And it takes a willingness to dig beneath the surface and shine a light on our own personal truth.
And I believe the benefits outweigh the risks.
Here’s why I think self awareness is important in our path to personal freedom:
1. If you know what motivates you, you can live with greater passion and purpose
When you know what lights you up, you can design you life in a way that aligns with those strengths. You can go after the things that fuel you, inspire you and drive you. You can be intentional about doing less of the things that drain you, and more of the things that feel like ease. I know I need variety, I need pace and I need to be forward-focused. So whilst I was good in both my corporate role and my work as a BodyTalk practitioner, I knew I needed a more multi-passionate engagement with the world, days with frequent pace-changes and to be part of something that didn’t leave me feeling hemmed in, routined or inflexible.
2. When you have clarity around what triggers you, you can you anticpate better responses
When you’re clear on the things that push your buttons and take you straight into reactive behaviour, you can learn to look out for them, anticipate them, and in that way, stay a little ahead. If you know you tend to get hooked in by people validating you, you can anticipate where this usually leads you, for example, taking on things you’d rather say no to, and with that you can prepare a better response. If you know you have a need to provide all the answers on the spot you can practice alternative replies, for example “I’d prefer to give you completely accurate information so can I get back to you in the next 48 hours?”
3. When you’re aware of your fears, you can put them in their rightful place
When we pretend we’re not scared, the feeling of fear doesn’t magically disappear. We just end up feeling bad for having the fear in the first place. But when we know what we’re afraid of, when we acknowlege how we’re really feeling, we can make peace with that emotion, and prevent it from leading the way. As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Big Magic, she speaks directly to her fear and acknowledges its presence in her journey. But she also makes it very clear to fear that she’ll never allow it to determine their direction or their route.
4. If you can predict it, you can prevent it
When we know ourselves well enough to be able to predict how we’re likely to respond in any given situation, we take back our power. I know that I’m likely to feel resentful if I take on obligations that don’t align with my truth. I know for sure it’s going to end badly if I’m asked to spend the weekend with large groups of people, with no room for aloneness. And I know that Christmas isn’t a great time for me, so I need to plan how I spend that time very carefully. With this knowledge about myself, I can avoid situations I know aren’t serving me or that leave me feeling as if I’m compromising myself too much.
5. When you’re tuned into your body’s message, you’re more equipped to find balance
When you’re aware of the messages your body sends you on a daily basis, you’re more able to listen to its truth, and make changes that serve you. When your belly aches, is it because you’’e eaten something that doesn’t suit your system, or is there something in your life that you “can’t stomach?” When your neck has stiffened up, what might have triggered it and is it possible that there’s somewhere in your life you’re being a little inflexible? When I get a call to run a project that doesn’t align with my inner truth, I’m immediately overwhelmed by nausea. I’ve discovered how to hear my body’s signals and I’m learning to use them as a solid guiding light.
6. When you understand yourself, you’re in a better position to understand others, and with that, improve your relationships
When you can see that your way of viewing the world is just your unique lens and not everyone else’s, you’re better equipped to start handling your own choices and reactions. And as you start observing the people around you as they really are, rather than through the glasses you’re wearing, you develop greater empathy for their perspectives too. If you’re someone who easily intuits other people’s needs, it can be frustrating when your partner can’t automatically see what needs to be done. But by knowing your gift isn’t common to everyone, you might be more open to overtly asking for where you need support and in doing so, helping them meet your needs.
7. When you can admit to your own version of numbing out, you can challenge your true intentions
When you know your personal preference for numbing, you can start to acknolwege when you’re using it intentionally or mindlessly. We all have our own ways of opting out and avoiding, including over-eating, over-working, scrolling Instagram, Netflix or Pinterest. If you can acknowledge how you’re using this form of numbing, you can be honest about how it’s really serving you. Is it truly helping you relax? Or is it about avoiding the feeling of loneliness? Is taking another course really going to make you better at your job, or is it about deflecting feeling of self-doubt?
8. When you can witness your usual defence mechanism, you can start seeing how it’s keeping you stuck
When you’re aware of how you tend to avoid pain or discomfort, you can start seeing it for what it really is, and how it’s not really serving you. My typical defences are avoidance and rationalisation. When I’m feeling discomfort I’ll often label it as boring (conversations, relationships, work), using the desire for greater pleasure and experience as an excuse for dealing with the real issue. Perhaps, when things don’t go according to plan, your tactic is to rationalise, perfect, defend, please or retreat. Knowing your unique flavour of pain-avoidance helps you understand what’s really going on beneath the surface, and get honest about what you really want and need.
9. When you know your stress signals, you’re better equipped to make healthier choices
When you’re aware of the way you behave when stressed or threatened, you can learn to see it as a sign that you’re out of balance. I know that I’m stressed when I start getting super petty about things, overly demanding and critical, and judgy about everyone else’s behaviour. The world didn’t change, but I certainly did. And this is a definite sign for me to stop and reassess what’s making me feel this way. Is it a sugar low that’s making me want to kill everyone in my path, or am I feeling compromised in some way, and what can I do to address it?
10. When you’re aware of your habitual, default habit, you can change your behaviour and choose tools to support you
When you’re clear on your usual pattern of behaviour, you not only have the opportunity to try a different approach, but you can bring in tools and techniques to support you as you try. If you tend to get side-tracked by too many opportunities and you struggle to follow through, bringing in more structure and discipline will provide a more solid foundation for your freedom. If you tend to say yes because you worry about letting people down, you can bring in a deflective technique, buying yourself more time to think about what you really want. If you find yourself getting delayed by analysis and always asking “what else do we need to know?” you might give yourself a deadline in which to make the decision.